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EDITORIAL: What Does Selling NCB IN Groton Say about Us?

Ever since the Boston Tea Party, coffee has been America’s beverage of choice. During Groton’s heyday as a transportation hub, stagecoaches traveling through town transported coffee to all points in northern New England. Coffee was a favorite beverage - along with rum - in the many inns and rooming houses of Groton catering to stagecoach travelers.
     During the Civil War, for Union soldiers, and the Confederates who could scrounge some, coffee fueled the war. Union soldiers drank it freely before marches, after marches, on patrol and during combat. In their diaries, coffee appears more frequently than the words rifle, cannon or bullet. Ragged veterans and tired nurses agreed with one commentator: ‘Nobody can ‘soldier’ without coffee.’ When starving Confederate troops surrendered at Vicksburg, one of their first demands was for coffee.
     Union troops made their coffee everywhere, and with everything: with water from canteens and puddles, brackish bays and Mississippi mud, liquid even their horses would not drink. They cooked it over fires of plundered fence rails, or heated mugs in scalding steam-vents on naval gunboats.
     In today’s America, we use different methods for preparing coffee, but our thirst for the beverage remains unquenched. Dunkin’ Donuts, the quintessential New England coffee chain, started in Quincy in 1950, has been marketed as everyman’s place to get a good, consistent cup of Joe at a reasonable price – New England’s place to grab your morning cup.
     But as our society becomes less equal, more stratified and more consumer-focused, Dunkin’ is taking steps to market specialty coffee products in the ‘cheap-luxury’ marketing style, following Starbuck’s lead with their new concept stores called‘NexGen’for Next Generation. When the new Dunkin’ NexGen store opened at Four Corners, some observed that it mimics aspects of a Starbucks store. Perhaps the Four-corners Dunkin’ store is intended as a firewall for a Starbucks move into the Groton coffee market.
     Dunkin’ NexGen’s most upscale coffee drink is NCB, short for Nitro Cold Brew. NCB is cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen as it is dispensed from a tap, giving the beverage a rich, creamy head, similar to draft beers like Guinness. Nitrogen, with its smaller bubbles, results in a generous ‘mouth feel’ and a ‘head’ like beer or stout. NCB is touted as superior to regular coffee due to its taste and texture, besides offering health benefits.
     Coffee that is ground and brewed cold, such as nitro coffee, is supposed to have enhanced flavor and aroma. With added nitrogen, marketers argue that ‘Nitro’ makes a high-value alternative to regular coffee, because of its natural sweetness, making extra sugar unnecessary. Also, NCB is less acidic and its higher caffeine level gives an added punch.
     But, besides being sold as a ‘health product’, Dunkin neglects to highlight the fact that it is more expensive – a lot more expensive - a small cold brew [8 oz.] sells for $1.86 at the Next Gen Dunkin’ Donuts at the Four Corners. Add some nitrogen bubbles and ‘magically’ the drink sells for more than double the non-nitro price at $4 for the 8 oz. serving.
     The NCB process is said to have originated in 2013 at craft coffee houses in Austin, Texas and Stumptown in Portland, Oregon. Starbucks introduced the beverage at 500 stores in the summer of 2016.
     There are three Dunkin’ coffee outlets in town, [one in the mini mall with Country Farms on Main Street, one at Haffner’s at the corner of Champney and Main streets, but only the NexGen store at Four Corner sells NCB.
     Now that we have NCB here in Groton what could be next? Would it be too much to expect pumpkin-spice NCB next Halloween.
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